Time once more to take a look at some recent court decisions and draw some conclusions (as well as to stretch the definition of “this week”).
An “absolutely devastated” man
The most prominent case this week is that of Brian Hampton, who drove into Jade Clark, sending her to her death under an oncoming minibus, on the A31 near Ringwood in February. After an extensive police hunt for the vehicle it transpired that Hampton had lied about the accident (saying he had hit a deer) when taking it to be repaired three days later.
It wasn’t the only thing he lied about. He told his wife he’d broken down, also lying to workmates and the police about the incident, and he had also previously hidden from his wife the fact that he had been disqualified from driving for 26 month the previous summer. (Despite all these actions, his defence lawyer claimed that Hampton was “absolutely devastated by what he did”. Of course he was.)
He pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving, driving without insurance and two counts of driving while disqualified; and despite pleading not guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice he was convicted of this too. He received two years’ imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving and four years for perverting the course of justice, to run consecutively; plus four months for driving whilst disqualified, to run concurrently. He was given no sentence for driving without insurance.
Spot the pattern
So, without commenting too much on Hampton’s case, let’s move on from there and see what else has been going on this week:
- Trevor Barnard, driving whilst disqualified, killed motorcyclist Allan Hellyer on the A3. Barnard and his partner Cassie Fagan swapped seats and Fagan lied to deny the incident by, somewhat bizarrely, claiming that they had been out shoplifting at the time. Barnard admitted driving while disqualified, perverting the course of justice, causing death by careless driving and driving without insurance (four years’ jail, three years’ disqualification from driving); Fagan admitted perverting the course of justice (one year’s jail).
- Jordan Evans, driving whilst disqualified for a previous conviction of dangerous driving, narrowly missed two vehicles before hitting Charlotte Dowle’s car, smashing her leg and trapping her in the car. He pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving, making off without payment, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance. He was jailed for 32 months and disqualified for five years.
- Peter Barber-Fleming, driving whilst disqualified for five years for his third drink driving offence (for which he escaped jail), was caught drunk at the wheel for a fourth time. Sentencing has been deferred.
- Kevin Conway, driving whilst disqualified, was spotted by police and arrested. He was found guilty of driving whilst disqualified and without insurance, and was given a six month prison sentence.
- Terry Duignam, driving whilst disqualified for three years for a drink driving offence, was spotted by police attempting to drive to work. This was Duignam’s eighth disqualification from driving. He had received no prison sentence for any of those eight previous offences. On this occasion he was sentenced to four months in prison.
- Simon Roberts, driving whilst disqualified, was spotted driving by police and swapped seats with his passenger in an attempt to avoid conviction. He received 240 hours’ unpaid work and an 18 month disqualification.
- Also driving whilst disqualified in East Kent alone were: one man who received a six month suspended sentence, one who received a 26 month ban, one who was given 200 hours’ unpaid work and one who received a 120 day suspended sentence and five years’ disqualification.
Got the pattern yet?
Yeah. Something’s not working here. Maybe disqualification needs toughening up a bit, eh?
At the very least, the punishment for driving whilst disqualified needs teeth: when people are getting away with suspended sentences or unpaid work or a disqualification that they’ll presumably ignore anyway then it doesn’t seem much of a disincentive for those who have already demonstrated that they’re not only unsafe to be on the road but also unwilling to abide by their sentences.
As for getting away with eight bans, escaping prison and being allowed back on the road? It’s a clear illustration of just how reluctant the law is to permanently remove people from the roads.
None of these people were disqualified from driving for more than five years, despite already flouting earlier sentences against them and in some cases seriously injuring or even killing others on the road.
Once again, it seems there is nothing anyone can do to be permanently disqualified from driving in the UK.
In other news this week:
- A driver who overturned his car whilst drunk, seriously injuring his two terrified passengers, received a 21 month prison sentence for dangerous driving (seemingly exacerbated by his skipping bail; no separate sentence was given for that).
- A driver who fled police at up to 70mph through Montrose, eventually mounting a footpath, was disqualified for 16 months and given unpaid work.
- A drunk driver who crashed into another car at 50mph in his third drink driving offence (even after his brother had already killed himself and an innocent victim in a drink driving incident) and fled the scene, was given a 12 week prison sentence and was disqualified for four years. The judge helpfully commented that his drink problem “perhaps” warranted professional counselling.